Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dismissing diagnoses of depression

Sometimes it's liberating to have a formal diagnosis of depression, or even to self-diagnose, because it can bring the symptoms into focus.  Depression is an illness that transcends the artificial barrier we place between mind and body; it begs for a single word that describes both concepts so as to avoid the idea that "it's in your head."

Of course, it is in your head.  Once, when I was explaining it to a friend, I said, "I know that if I make a conscious decision not to be paralyzed by this, it will happen.  I know that emotions drive physical reactions, and physical states likewise elicit emotions, like how smiling can make you feel happier and being happy can make you smile.  I know all these things, but it doesn't make it easier to decide to stop feeling this way."

Later, my friend said to me, "You're that way because you let it . . . whether you use the excuse of you can't help it or not, you control your mind and body, nobody else."

I don't disagree, but I found his position dismissive.  Yes, I control it all, but we have yet to determine exactly how depression controls me.  Why is it that understanding this concept isn't enough to cure me permanently?  I don't accept that I'm defeatist.  It's too pat an answer.

Rather, I suspect that some people are simply more susceptible to these kinds of physioemotional feedback loops than others.  There's got to be a reason, a cause.  I don't believe that anyone would choose -- even subconsciously -- to be miserable, any more than anyone would choose to be homosexual in a society that still largely disdains the practice of same-gender sexual gratification.

I don't talk about being depressed because I am weary of being dismissed as weak, or patronized because I am not strong, or sympathetically viewed as somehow flawed.  Whether or not a specific event precipitates a depressive episode, the depression is not representative of a lack of willpower.  I don't think I am alone in keeping to myself due to this widespread perception.

1 comment:

Matt said...

It's always hard to hear, even though it's the truth.

I've found that emulation can be a good way to help with the stresses of life. Try to act how someone that you admire would.

And most importantly, do it even when you feel like crap.

The reason behind this is that it doesn't give you a chance to consult your feelings.

Feelings can't be trusted.. think of them as a malicious liar in your head that is trying to slowly destroy your life.